Your New Spring Promotion

Feb. 1, 2009
This year, instead of promoting "tune-ups," I suggest you promote "pre-season inspections" to all your existing non-service agreement customers. These are people you know have had trouble with their systems in the past, and with whom you've already established a positive relationship.

We're approaching the time of year when you should be sending out notices to people that it's time for them to get their air conditioners ready for the cooling season.

Most HVAC contractors offer an air conditioning tune-up at a discounted rate. This year, you're going to offer a service that is a more profitable for you, and more informative and beneficial to your customers. This service also makes it easier for your techs to sell additional services and upgrades.

What’s a "Tune-up?"

The short answer is that a tune-up includes doing everything on the system that needs to be done every year. It does not include anything that only needs to be done occasionally, if at all.

The Pre-Season Air Conditioning Inspection

This year, instead of promoting "tune-ups," I suggest you promote "pre-season inspections" to all your existing non-service agreement customers. These are people you know have had trouble with their systems in the past, and with whom you've already established a positive relationship.

During an inspection, maintenance isn’t performed. All you do is go over the mechanical aspects of the air conditioning system with a fine-tooth comb, then provide customers with a report on its condition (see Figure 1).

You can do these "inspections" at a significantly lower rate than you can do a tune-up.

The lower the price of the inspections, the more of them you'll book. If you historically have difficulty keeping your technicians busy between seasons, you can offer these inspections for as little as $29.95.

Obviously, in order for this to be successful, your technicians need to believe in the absolute necessity of keeping home comfort systems absolutely spotless, addressing minor issues before they become major issues, the value and benefits of indoor air quality products, and possess good communication (translation: sales) skills.

How it's Received

Nine cooling seasons ago, I showed up at a contractor's shop to show his technicians how I run a standard-issue pre-season discounted tune-ups. I learned they planned to have me running pre-season air conditioning inspections; not tune-ups. I'd never done pre-season inspections before and, prior to my experiences that week, had considered inspections a "rip-off" product. I was afraid that customers who'd booked appointments had done so under the assumption that I'd be performing at least some light routine maintenance, and wouldn't be too happy when they realized that all they were paying me to do was look their system over and write up a report on it's condition.

When I ran the first call, immediately following the initial introductions at the front door, I showed them the inspection form and stated, "Just as a point of clarification, I'm here to do a $(price) inspection of your air conditioning system. That means I'll be going over it with a fine-tooth comb, then providing you with a full report on its condition. If there's anything that requires attention, and I don't know that there will be, I'll also provide you with a list of options and prices to address those issues while I'm here, and I can usually do it all right on the spot. Sound good?"

To my surprise, that little speech was met with 100% approval by every customer I saw that week.

What to Expect:

Now we get to the beauty of this process. The systems of customers who called for an inspection required work that went beyond routine maintenance. It's no wonder. Think about it: who's going to spend money to have you come out to their home to provide them with a written report that proves their air conditioning system is in perfect working order? No one. The only people who schedule an inspection are those whose air conditioners aren't providing what they consider to be adequate cooling.

My first week of running inspections in this manner, way back in the year 2000-when prices were considerably lower-I ran nine inspections with an average service invoice of $634.42. Everyone invested in a service agreement and I made one equipment sale.

Common tasks you'll sell:

  1. Nearly every condensing unit will require cleaning. Don't be afraid to charge double for heavily impacted coils that will require time and chemicals that go beyond normal, routine maintenance. Once you get the coil cleaned, it'll be considerably cheaper for them to have you come out every year and keep it clean. Your annual maintenance agreement will still include a routine cleaning of the outdoor coil.
  2. Since contactors are overwhelmingly the cause of "no cool" calls, homeowners should be given the opportunity to replace worn, pitted and burnt contactors before they fail, at a significantly lower cost to do it on the spot than it would be to make a separate trip to do it later.
  3. Check capacitors to see if they're leaking and/or not holding a charge.
  4. I pull and clean the blower on two-thirds of my calls. If your techs aren't doing the same, they're not doing their jobs. When I find a dirty blower, I pull it out and set it alongside the unit where the customer can see it. Once they get a look at it, they say, "You're going to clean that for me, aren't you?"
  5. As a rule, anything that's on the blower is also on the indoor coil. Once I get the blower out of the way, I can get a good look at the indoor coil. Close to two out of three of them also need cleaning or replacing.
  6. When you find a dirty blower wheel and a dirty indoor coil, ask, "If there were a way to avoid these expenses in the future, have cleaner air, and increased airflow, would you want to know more about it?" Naturally, I'm talking about improved filtration systems and UV lights. (On my inspection form, I refer to UV lights as "System Sterilizers"; you can add up to three per system.) Quote these products on two out of every three calls and you'll sell them.
  7. Take the start amperage of the compressor. If it's higher than the specs on the manufacturer's plate that's attached to the unit, recommend a hard start kit.

What to do:

  1. Email me at [email protected], and I'll send you the inspection sheet in Microsoft Word® format so you can easily modify it.
  2. Once you've reviewed the form, call me at 1-800-963-HVAC (4822) with any questions you have regarding this program.
  3. Go over the inspection form with your techs.
  4. Send out post cards to your existing non-service agreement customers offering the pre-season inspection.
  5. Have them run the calls and complete the inspection form.
  6. After you've completed the inspection form, write your recommendations down on a separate piece of paper using my signature "Paper Towel Close" format, in order of priority. Next month, I'll provide details and an example on the "Paper Towel Close," which is my "signature move."

I'd like to hear results from everyone who utilizes this methodology. If a large number of you find it is well received and profitable, I supply you with a heating inspection form to use between the cooling and heating seasons.

Charlie Greer is the HVAC Consultant of the Year, and the creator of "Tec Daddy's Service Technician Survival School on DVD" and "Slacker's Guide to HVAC Sales on Audio CD." The Spring, 2009 dates are set for "Charlie Greer's 4-Day Sales Survival Schools," with separate classes for HVAC techs and salespeople. To talk to Charlie, order a free catalog, or check his training schedule, call 1-800-963-HVAC (4822) or visit ( . Email Charlie at [email protected]